“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

I have had occasion recently to interact professionally with the relatively new CEO at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados, Mr. Winston Collymore, a Barbadian. He brings substantial top level leadership and management experience in health, and the public and private sectors.

Winston Collymore has held CEO and other senior management level positions in which he led major transformation and modernisation of health services, an experience spanning a number of major acute hospitals and community care organisations. In addition, he worked in a senior role in the Oxford Region Health Authority U.K., responsible for the provision of all health services to about 2.5 million people.

Mr. Collymore most recent post prior to the QEH job was Strategy and Planning Senior Manager at the Birmingham Teaching NHS Trust. In that post, he was responsible for the Emergency Admissions Avoidance Programme and performance management of delivery of health services for long-term conditions including cancer; coronary heart disease; diabetes; kidney failure; respiratory conditions such as asthma; and mental health conditions including dementia, epilepsy and learning disabilities.

Mr. Collymore holds an MBA from Aston University, an undergraduate degree in Economics and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants. In 2004, he was one of 11 people from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service work force of 1.3 million chosen to participate in its first one-year prestigious top management breakthrough programme. In addition, I found him to be a family man with cheerful heart which I predict will be good medicine for the QEH.

I introduced him to the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) www.caribbeanmediaexchange.com which my son Bevan coordinates. After 13 workshops in less than five years, CMEx is a lively and effective forum for the exchange of ideas and views between the media and major players in the Caribbean and International tourism and tourism-linkage industries. It has attracted strong encouragement from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the region’s tourism development agency which comprises a membership of 32 governments and a myriad of private sector entities.

CTO Secretary-General and CEO, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace recently said, as he congratulated Counterpart International and Counterpart Caribbean for encouraging serious dialogue between the industry and media operatives: “Ten years ago, I could never imagine the kind of coverage that tourism now receives all across the Caribbean due in no small part to CMEx events which lead to the very broad education of journalists about the industry”.

CMEx IX, the 14th CMEx or CMExPress event in five years, to be held in St. Lucia, October 12 to 16, 2006, will examine the enhancement of sustainable tourism development through the lens of “CHIC Communications Concepts”, discussing culinary, cultural, health, sports, and village tourism linkages over four days in Castries. The conference will also focus on HIV/AIDS and what’s needed to mitigate the impact of the disease on regional populations.

I mentioned to Mr. Collymore that at CMEx IX we wanted to design a session where the diverse attendees would make several pairs of new contacts with the view of developing new business relationships. He immediately referred to this as “Speed Networking”. This is a relatively new trend which is an organised event involving dozens of individuals who talk briefly to possible business partners and assess the potential for continuing the contact.

Speed networking is based on the idea that the usual way businesses, especially small businesses with potential for exponential growth, gain new contacts or clients is by so-called networking – meeting to talk to people and exchange ideas. Traditional networking events, like conferences, are often not very productive because people tend to gravitate towards those they already know, and wouldn’t normally walk up to absolute strangers, even though there are likely to be people in the room who would make promising contacts. In a dedicated speed networking event, people are given a structured environment in which they can talk to people they wouldn’t otherwise have come into contact with, and can quickly decide whether there is a mutual interest without the need for polite or unnecessarily long conversations.

The exact arrangements vary, but in a typical speed networking event, people are given five minutes or less to talk to a potential contact, and are then moved on – often to the sound of a buzzer. At the end of the meeting, business cards can be exchanged, thereby sowing the seeds for a new commercial relationship.

Emerging out of a the ECCB’s Finance and Development Symposium held two weeks ago in St Kitts, the first meeting of the Steering Committee to advise on the establishment of the Eastern Caribbean Enterprise Fund was held in St Lucia last week, chaired by Sir Dwight Venner Governor of the ECCB.

The ECEF will have three components: a Financial Capital Fund, Management Services and Export Services. These coupled with business ideas could lay the foundation for economic growth in the Eastern Caribbean. The ECEF, which will be established to be a money making venture, will address the full spectrum of needs in the Enterprise Development sector including start-ups as well as existing businesses in need of further finance and management support.

The output from the CMEx IX speed networking session could very well be a source of new business ideas to feed into the ECEF.